Rhodri Marsden: Haircuts, a range of idiots, and why I miss Phil the barber

Life on Marsden
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The Independent Online

As time hurtles forwards and my hairline does the opposite, I need to get my hair cut far more often in order to stop me looking like a troubled scientist emerging from months of experiments in an underground laboratory.

That's the lot of the balding man, and, as a result, we tend to strike up closer relationships with barbers than hirsute men simply because we're there more often. Barbers like us. We give them no trouble. We sit there for five minutes, they make us look marginally less appalling, we give them six quid.

But since moving to a new area, I'm having trouble finding a barber as reliably entertaining as my old one, a Greek Cypriot called Phil. His deferential politeness to all his customers stood in stark contrast to his foul-mouthed hostility towards them once they'd left the premises.

"Stupifucki-idiot", he would mutter whenever the door closed behind someone. He probably referred to all of us as stupifucki-idiots, but this duplicity was so delightful that I forgave him.

Once, someone wandered in and started idly leafing through The Sun. "Hello my friend, how are you?" said Phil, warmly. After a couple of minutes, the guy changed his mind about a haircut and walked to the door. "Phil, before I go," he said. "Yes, what would that be, my friend?" replied Phil. "They're going to have to tell us the truth, aren't they, on the television? They've got to! Anyway, cheerio." "Goodbye, sir!" called Phil, gaily. The door shut. "Stupifucki-idiot," said Phil.

I felt slightly emotional during my final haircut and my final experience of a stupifucki-idiot, a chap who asked Phil endless questions about his forthcoming holiday to Cyprus.

"Phil, when I'm there, what kind of things can I drink?" he asked. "Well, sir," Phil replied, "that depends on what kind of thing you like!" A pointless conversation about liquids ensued. As soon as the guy had left, Phil sniffed. "Stupifucki-idiot," he said. "Mm," I concurred, keen to leave Phil with a good impression of me. I didn't want to leave and be branded a stupifucki-idiot for evermore. "What a stupid fucking idiot," I said, assertively. "You're right there, sir," beamed Phil, as he handed me the standard post-haircut tissue, which I always throw away because I never know what I'm supposed to do with it.